Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):
A major portion of the San Miguel River will be permanently protected under a precedent-setting water right after a Colorado Water Court ruling this week. In a ruling signed on May 20, the Water Court for Division 4 ruled in favor of an application for “in-stream flow” (ISF) protection that permanently safeguards a large section of the San Miguel River west of Montrose, Colo. The protection was sought by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), and Western Resource Advocates and The Wilderness Society intervened in support of the Board’s application.
“The San Miguel River is one of the last relatively free-flowing rivers in Colorado, and this water right will help ensure that it stays that way for generations to come,” said Rob Harris, Senior Water Attorney with Western Resource Advocates (WRA) and the lead counsel representing WRA and The Wilderness Society. “The Colorado Water Conservation Board recognized early on that this is an incredibly significant protection, and the Board did a great job of working with a diverse community to negotiate an outcome that is truly in the best interests of both the surrounding area and the entire state.”
The Water Court for Division 4 approved the dedication of an in-stream flow protection of up to 325 cfs (cubic feet per second), which amounts to one of the largest river protections in the history of the state—exceeded only by similar protections afforded the much-larger Colorado River (A typical ISF protection accounts for less than 10 cfs). The San Miguel ISF recognizes the importance of keeping water ‘in the stream’ to benefit the natural environment. Healthy rivers also benefit recreation, local communities, and the economy.
“We’re pleased to secure permanent protection for this scenic river in Colorado’s Red Rock Canyon country,” said Harris. “This really is a tremendous accomplishment, and we are incredibly proud to have played a part in the process.”
The CWCB and the Colorado Attorney General’s office amicably concluded negotiations that satisfied nearly every interested party to the case, including the Board of County Commissioners of Montrose County and Tri- State Generation and Transmission Association. Barring an appeal of the Water Court ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, the May 20th decision concludes a process that began with an ISF application on Oct. 31, 2011.
The location of the San Miguel River protection is west of Montrose, near the town of Nucla.